Being part of a wayfinding company, I am pretty excited about what appears to be the global adoption of beacons. Utilizing this technology means that we can now offer exact positioning without having the customer first indicate his or her location. The ability to offer exact positioning creates a new realm of seemingly endless possibilities that are a natural fit to wayfinding platforms.
This article is divided into sections in order to make it easy to read and reference. Part one explains the functions and capacities of beacons and what they allow us to do. The next segments will discuss their practical uses.
What Are Beacons
Beacons are little BLE (Blue Tooth Low Energy) devices that send out a signal. Buildings, stores, and offices are equipped with these devices, each sending out their own personal ‘I am Here’ signal. In turn, this transmission from the beacons can be captured by mobile phones.
When a cell-phone captures a beacon signal, it can be triggered to perform an action. The type of action depends on the function of the app. For example, in store beacons can transmit relevant product information or special promotional messages.
The keyword here is ‘relevant‘, because it shows information personalized for that user; tailored for that specific location and meant to be delivered at precisely that moment.
How much more personal can information get? As such, beacons are the key to The Holy Grail of Marketing. They are designed to display personally relevant messages. It is “The Minority Report” all over (a very good movie by the way).
Apple launched the iBeacon technology in 2013. To no surprise Google quickly followed with their own beacon technology know as Eddystone. Since beacon software developers make their API’s (Application Programming Interface) to suit both of these systems, the platform is now ready for application developers, world-wide, to develop their own beacon based app.
Cost and Installation
Beacons cost around $20-$25, depending on the manufacturer. When purchased in large quantities, the cost significantly decreases.
Installation is quite easy. Beacons can be placed on walls, or ceilings and secured with Velcro. Make sure they are outside the reach of the people so they do not disappear.
As reminder, please make sure there is a clear line of sight so that beacon transmissions are not disrupted.
Beacon durability depends upon:
- Frequency of the signal
- Range of the signal
The frequency can be set from 100ms – 2000ms (variations possible).
In optimal conditions, the maximum range is about 70 meters or 76 yards. In standard conditions, beacon range tends to be between 40 to 50 meters.
The ‘normal’ battery life of a beacon is about 3 years. This is measured at medium settings and under standard operating conditions.
In sum, beacon technology is affordable and the batteries used to power the units are also inexpensive. If you used Velcro to fasten the beacons to walls or ceilings they are also simple to exchange. The batteries in sealed beacons, which are for outside use, are not inter-changeable. In this case, just exchange the whole beacon.